When I ran away to Japan with my best friend, Michelle, at age 17 – the first time either of us had ever been outside Australia – my bags were filled mostly with books. They were a predictable reflection of mid-teen angst and included The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing, several volumes of poetry by Sylvia Plath, one of which included my then-favourite poem, The Bee Meeting, and an anthology of jisei no ku, Japanese death poems, by poets whose names I can't remember.I still travel with a lot of books, none of them typical airport fare. 'Dead' hours in airport lounges, in planes, cabs and occasionally trains, or waiting alone in hotel lobbies are precious opportunities to catch up on my reading. Tonight, as I packed for an overnight trip to Melbourne to meet with a prominent collector, I had four paperbacks laid out next to my back-pack:Idle Worship: How Pop Empowers the Weak, Rewards the Faithful and Succours to the Needy edited by Chris Roberts. It comprises the reflections of various musicians, performers and writers on the weirder phenomena of fan-dom.Sex, Death and God in L.A. edited David Reid. I love this quote, by screenwriter Jeremy Larner: "To be disturbed by anything is to be a loser."The Lives of the Dead by poet and Southern gothic novelist, Charlie Smith, who is shamefully unrecognised by an audience beyond the slim readership of the Paris Review.
Oil Notes by Rick Bass. Recommended by a friend who has the best – and widest-ranging – literary taste, it's the journal of a young, itinerant, Texan oil surveyor turned writer who finds all kinds of unexpected relationships between oil prospecting and the everyday dilemmas of life. Of all the books I own, its pages are the most profusely earmarked with tiny post-it tabs.